Knowing Your Roots

Blog 10

Striving for sustainability, particularly in the marketplace, is something most people desire but what exactly does it mean?

Sustainability is a process of producing something that balances the environmental, societal and economic needs for the good of everyone.

Here at New Family Farm, we understand the need to preserve the environmental integrity of the grower’s fields, the ecological services they provide and the landscapes of which they are a part.

We recognize the societal role that our farms play in fostering local communities by providing employment and opportunities for those who live there.

We know farmers need to be economically solvent, to remain in business and continue to grow the food we all depend on. Balancing all of these factors is what sustainability really means!  

This balancing process becomes even more complex when consumers, who increasingly do not live on a farm or even in the countryside, are demanding sustainable offerings in their buying choices and the supply chain that brings food to the market is responding to those demands.

To stay in business, farmers must comply with ever-changing market demands, which often include a plethora of record keeping, documentation, paperwork and adoption of new, often risky, technologies. These advancements have made our food more secure and our landscapes more ecologically sound, but they also bring additional costs and risks that are not rewarded by a premium return in the marketplace.

In some cases, the food industry is looking beyond the demonstration of basic sustainability and toward documented, higher-tiered products. These programs—usually grower-driven at a local level—are focused on developing high-bar standards that include certified, audited and verified products.

Examples of these programs are found nationally, including the Lodi Rules wine program, the Forest Stewardship Council certified wood or the Salmon Safe program for cleaner watersheds.

One of the more advanced programs was created right here in Wisconsin by growers in the Central Sands. This pioneering program, marketed as Healthy Grown potatoes, was launched in 1996.

Developed jointly by growers, environmental groups and University of Wisconsin researchers, Healthy Grown was developed to provide standards that advance biologically based pest management approaches, reduce reliance on high-risk pesticides and enhance ecosystem conservation efforts.

Healthy Grown standards are science-based and provide a product that utilizes a high-bar slate of sustainable practices, audited and certified by independent agencies.

This program continues to thrive and has become a national model for the successful adoption of sustainable agricultural practices by the potato industry.

A major goal of the Healthy Grown program is to develop marketplace incentives that reward the adoption of farming practices promoting agricultural sustainability and enhancing environmental farming systems.

Developed by growers over 20 years ago, Healthy Grown is now meeting the growing consumer demand for products that are produced using sustainable methods. The activity benefits Wisconsin by putting its growers in a leading position to capture this expanding market!

The Healthy Grown standards encourage education and foster strong interactions between growers and University of Wisconsin Extension biologists and ecologists working with growers on developing state-of-the-art practices that encourage diverse ecosystems, preserve the environment, conserve natural resources and enhance natural communities on the farm.

The Healthy Grown potato program has enjoyed continual success since its inception, certifying 4000-9000 acres annually (10-15% of the Wisconsin fresh potato crop).

Wisconsin’s Healthy Grown growers have successfully in advanced practices utilizing biologically based management approaches to manage pests and foster ecosystems that protect wildlife habitats and restore rare plants and animals on privately owned farms.

Now, it is up to consumers – if you like this high-bar approach, to support Healthy Grown by purchasing from or requesting them in your local Wisconsin stores. You will be getting way more than just great tasty potatoes!

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